Diversity in the Workplace: It’s a Grassroots Effort and it Begins with You

If you’re a working professional, there’s a 99 percent chance (not a proven statistic) you’ve heard the word “diversity” mentioned at work at some point or another. High-five if you were the one to bring it up! There’s always more that can be done to advance the state of diversity in every industry. I was reminded of this when attending PRSA Austin’s September Luncheon, “Transforming the State of Diversity & Inclusion in PR,” and the PRSA International Conference October 7-9 in Austin, Texas. Speaking on the current state of D&I, Gretel Perera, Roku’s PR director and Latinas in Tech co-founder, said there’s a lot of work to be done and PR is fundamental to this advancement.

But where to begin? The answer is not complicated: it’s a grassroots effort that begins with each organization’s own people. Diversity needs to be authentic, a priority and engrained into the DNA of the organization, to be effective. Diversity initiatives within an organization can be as simple as meeting for lunch with other women or minorities to discuss workplace experiences to looking at your organization’s customer demographics and asking: Is my brand aligned with their values?

Achieving a more diverse workplace, like all other initiatives, comes with its challenges. Chairman for the PRSA National Diversity & Inclusion Committee James Shackelford pointed out: There is no definition to how success in diversity is measured. For example, does having a 50-50 ratio of men and women in a company mean it is fully diverse? It could be, but there are other factors that come into play when considering D&I such as the positions men vs. women hold, race and sexual orientation.

Another challenge is senior executive buy-in. It’s important to push for diversity of thought when all they see is, “I hired the best talent,” Perera said. Engage with the c-suite and help them understand that there are always going to be groups of people who are under-represented because they are denied opportunities. Contrast to a common myth, you’re not lowering the bar by choosing to hire a diverse person, it’s about leveling the playing field and opening up the pipeline for someone who did not have the opportunity before, explained Senior HR Manager of Formaspace Angela Shaw. Start by looking at your inner-circle…if your peers come from the same city, college, etc., then it’s time to expand.

Below are more tips gathered at PRSA Austin’s luncheon that we can all keep in mind to expand diversity in our circles:

  • Always take the opportunity to be “the one” (the only woman, the only African American, the only transgender, etc.), even though you don’t speak for all, at least you bring a different perspective.
  • Come prepared. Do your work and be the best professional in the room.
  • Use humor when all else fails, start with a joke to break the ice then go into valuable conversation.

Everyone has a role to play regardless of your chosen profession. From a personal perspective, I realized that it’s very easy for diversity to become a passive topic when nobody is calling it out. As a woman and Latina navigating the start of her professional career, I intend to have a more active role in advancing the conversation by keeping diversity top-of-mind.

Alicia Vazquez
Account Coordinator


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